Does workers' comp cover death benefits?
Suffering the loss of a loved one due to a work-related death is something no person should ever have to go through.
Sadly, every year thousands of families are forced to endure this tragic and often traumatizing experience. While trying to cope with the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one is hard enough, the financial impact of that person's death can also create problems for you and your family - especially if the deceased was the primary income earner in your household.
You might already be aware that Mississippi's workers' compensation system provides medical and wage benefits to eligible workers who suffer an on-the-job injury or illness, but did you know certain family members may be entitled to death benefits in the event of a work-related fatality?
Here's what you should know...
Fatal work injuries in Mississippi
According to the most recent data made available by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were a total of 5,333 fatal work injuries reported nationwide in 2019, which represents a 2% increase over 2018 and the largest annual number since 2007.
In Mississippi, 59 fatal occupational injuries were reported in 2019, which actually represents a 24% decrease from the 78 deaths that were reported in 2018. Still, even just one fatality is one too many - especially when you consider the tragic nature of the deaths.
Other key findings from the data show that in Mississippi:
- Men made up 90% of the state's work-related fatalities
- 53% of the people who died due to a workplace injury were white, non-Hispanics
- Of all the state's work-related deaths, 61% were workers ages 25-54
- Only 10% of the fatal work injuries were sustained by people who were self-employed
- The private transportation and warehousing industry accounted for the most fatalities (12)
- The most fatal work injuries (30) were sustained by workers in transportation incidents
- The 2nd most fatalities (10) happened as a result of violence by other people or animals
- The 3rd highest number of deaths (8) occurred due to workers coming in contact with objects and equipment, with falls, slips, and trips (6) rounding out the top 4
Who is eligible for workers’ comp death benefits?
As stated by the Mississippi Worker's Compensation Commission: "If the injury causes death, the Workers' Compensation Law guarantees the payment of benefits to any surviving spouse and certain surviving dependents. These benefits equal a certain percentage of the deceased worker's average weekly wage, and are subject to a weekly maximum amount set by statute."
Family members that may be eligible to receive workers' comp death benefits include:
- The deceased's spouse
- The deceased's unmarried children who are younger than 18
- The deceased's unmarried children, up to age 23, who are pursuing full-time education
- Any of the deceased's unmarried children who are disabled or unable to support themselves
In some cases, other relatives of the deceased may be eligible for death benefits so long as the deceased worker wasn't married and didn't have any children. These relatives may be entitled to 15% of the deceased's average weekly wages, up to a maximum limit - but keep in mind that the relative must prove that they depended on the deceased's financial support in order to qualify.
Aside from close relatives and dependents, other relatives of the deceased who may be eligible for death benefits include:
- Unmarried siblings or grandchildren who are younger than 18
- Unmarried siblings or grandchildren, up to age 23, who are pursuing full-time education
- Unmarried siblings or grandchildren who are disabled and unable to support themselves
- Parents or grandparents of the deceased
How much can you receive in death benefits?
First and foremost, the deceased worker's employer or its insurance carrier is required to pay up to $5,000 in funeral expenses.
For those who qualify, death benefits are typically payable at least every 14 days and may continue for up to 450 weeks after the deceased workers' death.
Installment payments vary depending on who is receiving benefits, and payments are calculated based on the deceased's earnings:
- Surviving spouse only - 35% of the deceased's weekly wages along with an immediate lump sum payment of $1,000.
- Surviving spouse and children - 35% of the deceased's weekly wages along with an immediate lump sum payment of $1,000 to the spouse; 10% of the deceased's average weekly wages to the deceased's dependent children. *If the surviving spouse dies or remarries, benefits for the deceased worker's children shall be increased to 15% of the worker's average weekly wages.
- Surviving children only - 25% of the deceased's average weekly wages
Tabor Law Firm can fight for the benefits you deserve
To receive workers' compensation death benefits, your loved one's death must have been caused by a work-related injury or illness, a rule that also applies to deceased workers who had underlying medical conditions.
While you would think the system is designed to make obtaining death benefits easy, disputes over claims can and do happen. For those trying to cope with the loss of a loved one, dealing with any added stress can be overwhelming. You know you need the financial support that death benefits will provide, but there are a million other things you have to handle in the meantime, and you're not really sure what to do or who to turn to for help.
At Tabor Law Firm, P.A., our workers' compensation attorneys take pride in helping grieving families in Mississippi pursue death benefits after the tragic loss of a loved one. Our attorneys know the claims process inside and out and will aggressively advocate for your best interests from start to finish.
See how our law firm can help you and contact us today for a free consultation. Our office is located in Ridgeland, MS and we serve clients throughout the Jackson area, as well as statewide.